Although the spotlight is always on the soloist, pianist Edith Orloff would like to keep things in perspective.
"You're not just an isolated body there on the stage with a hundred players behind you," Orloff said in a recent phone interview. "You're an integrated part of the group. You just have a little more to do."
Orloff will be soloist for Beethoven's Piano Concerto No. 5, "Emperor," at 8:15 p.m. on Saturday with conductor John Larry Granger and the South Coast Symphony at Orange Coast College. (Also on the all-Beethoven program will be the Overture to "The Creatures of Prometheus" and the Symphony No. 5 in C minor.)
Orloff credits her share-the-limelight philosophy to her work with colleagues Endre Balogh, violinist, and John Walz, cellist, with whom she formed the Pacific Players in 1980. (The trio, which has performed throughout the United States and Canada, makes its New York debut at Alice Tully Hall in Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts on Oct. 19.)
"The more chamber music that anyone does, the more a concert performance is enhanced," Orloff said. "Not everyone agrees with that. There are people who say you can't be good at both. I think that's nonsense. Musicians can do as many types of performing as they're capable of."
Orloff calls the "Emperor" Concerto a "consummate piece of chamber music because the orchestra is an integral part of the piece.
"You must be able to blend, adapt yourself in different kinds of ways and really work as an ensemble player. Of course, you must also be soloistic.
"In the first movement, you must convey a really good sense of line and breath. You must give the sense that no matter how much you put out, you have even more to give. That requires tremendous endurance.
"Levity and humor come out in the last two movements, and the last is a rollicking, wonderful release of energy."
Pitfalls Orloff wishes to avoid are the "temptation to make the virtuoso passages showy for the wrong reasons and the tendency to take great liberties in the tempi, which tends to make the piece very sectionalized.
"My goal is to make each stage grow out of what came before."
Is the concerto difficult? "Yes, as long as it's Beethoven, it's going to be hard, whether it's an early or a late sonata, the first, second or third concerto. Beethoven is just hard. But this is a fabulous piece."
Orloff, 35, has played the Beethoven concerto virtually since her student days at California Institute of the Arts in Valencia, but like most artists her ideas about it have changed over the years.
"The older you get, the more you absorb from other people. In this way, time works to your advantage.
"My particular tendency is to be settling down. Tempi are slower than they used to be, and I'm more introspective than I used to be.
"But I feel that's it's a bigger and more robust sound than I had. My performance should be more powerful now, not in a knockdown, drag-out kind of way.
"But one can only hope that this comes across."
Orloff was born in Washington, D.C., but considers herself "a native of Los Angeles," since the family moved there when she was 6 months old. After earning her bachelor and master of fine arts degrees from CalArts, she pursued summer studies at the University of Southern California and the Music Academy of the West in Santa Barbara.
Her teaching experience has included Houston Baptist University and the Shepherd School of Music at Rice University in Houston, and since 1976 the Idyllwild School of Music and the Arts, where she met her Pacific Soloist colleagues and also John Larry Granger, conductor of the South Coast Symphony.
When she and her husband David Peck moved to San Diego last December (Peck is principal clarinetist with the San Diego Symphony), she contacted Granger again.
"I called Larry and said, 'How about doing a concerto together?' Networking is an important part of one's business relations.
"It worked out very nicely because he was planning on doing an all-Beethoven program, and this is such a fanfare type of work. It's appropriate for an opening concert.
Orloff, however, has heard the orchestra only through tapes of previous concerts, and she will have only one full and one dress rehearsal with the orchestra.
"In most situations, when you're playing on the circuit, usually one time is it, and maybe a touch-up on the day of the concert," she said. "In some cases, that is unfortunate.
"But the Beethoven is a rather well-known work, and everyone has it in his ear. It really shouldn't be that hard for us to put it together."
The South Coast Symphony's season will continue:
- Nov. 1: Sibelius' Violin Concerto (Lyndon Taylor, soloist), Franz Berwald's Overture to "Estrella de Soria," Dvorak's Symphony No. 8 in G.
- Jan. 10, 1987: Mozart's Sinfonia Concertante for Violin and Viola in E-flat (Lawrence Sanderling and Evan Wilson, soloists); Weber's Overture, "Ruler of the Spirits"; Brahms' Symphony No. 4 in E minor.
- March 7: Liszt's Piano Concerto No. 2 (Julien Musafia, soloist); Vaughan Williams' Overture to "The Wasps"; Debussy's "La damoiselle elue" (with Women of the UC Irvine Chorus); Hanson's Symphony No 2, "Romantic."
- April 25: Mozart's Concerto for Two Pianos in E-flat and Poulenc's Concerto for Two Pianos in D minor (Mona and Renee Golabek, soloists); Schubert's Overture to "Rosamunde"; Suite from Stravinsky's "Firebird."